Illegal connections, power thefts and vandalism cost energy distribution company – UMEME a hefty Ugx 19.2 Billion in both commercial and technical losses during the past one year, in Eastern Uganda.
Hudson Arinaitwe, the UMEME Mbale Branch Manager says up to 41 transformers were vandalized during the year in the areas of Mbale, Sironko, Bududa, Manafwa, Butaleja and Bulambuli districts.
Arinaitwe explains that Umeme spent up to Ugx 14.3 billion on the repair and replacement of both vandalized and stolen transformers. Another Ugx 5 billion was lost in illegal connections.
According to Patrick Bitature – Board Chairman Umeme Limited, Umeme annually loses about Ugx78 billion due to power thefts countrywide.
He says at least 574,000 electricity users are now connected to the national grid with 52,000 of them using pre-paid meters.
Last year Umeme launched an anti-power theft campaign meant to reduce power losses by 10 percent over the next seven years.
However, the practice remains unabated especially in the countryside. More illegal connections are registered as consumers use into the national grid using illegal cords, there are more records of vandalism and power theft. Quite often, perpetrators have also lost their lives.
Arinaitwe says the number of deaths resulting out of electrocution is alarming.
He adds that UMEME is now working with the various security agencies to curb the practice in the region. He however asked the public to utilize and benefit from the government’s free electricity program.
In December 2012, Umeme proposed that fine for domestic consumers who would be accused, prosecuted and convicted of stealing power be increased from Ugx 295,000 to Ugx 350,000.
For commercial consumers convicted of stealing electricity, the company proposed that the fine be increased to Ugx 700,000 from Ugx 590,000.